Puff Pastry Swirls and Tarts

The Plain Kitchen Food Blog

Parmesan and Pecan Swirls

The Plain Kitchen Food Blog

Date, Blue Cheese & Walnut Puffs

These little puff pastry tarts and swirls are super easy to make- and I really do not apologise for using ready rolled pastry. I always try to have a pack of ready rolled butter puff pastry to hand, as I find it an invaluable staple when entertaining, particularly if you want quick, easy but pretty little snacks. These puffs and swirls are perfect with a glass of something like a brandy, or similar- I often find that folk are still quite happy to eat delicious little things towards the end of an evening, and these fit the bill perfectly. I work on quantities for one roll of 375g puff pastry here: the quantities given for each recipe will make 24 little date and blue cheese puffs, and 24 parmesan swirls. Please ensure you use butter puff pastry: the other sort has awful stuff in it- the butter one is the one to seek out, please. Although these can be made ahead of time,  I tend to serve mine pretty swiftly, as I do think they are better eaten immediately.

Of course, these are not gluten free- but I don’t feel my guests have to go without delicious little nibbles in the form of puff pastry just because I can’t enjoy them!

I work on about 3-4 snacks per person, so I reckon each recipe will serve 6 people.

Preheat Oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Date, Walnut & Blue Cheese Puffs:


1 pack ready rolled butter puff pastry (375g)

90g Danish Blue cheese, or similar

Good squeeze of runny honey

½ cup walnuts, chopped

About 10 Medjool dates, pitted & finely chopped

Good grinding black pepper

2 rashers smoked streaky bacon, cut into 24 little pieces

30g melted butter


Please ensure that the pastry is cold before you work with it.

Mix the cheese, honey, walnuts, pepper and dates together well. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

Place the sheet of pastry on a lightly floured surface. Use two different scone cutters, one 2cm in diameter, and another slightly bigger- 3 cm in diameter. Use the bigger scone cutter to cut rounds from the pastry, and then use the smaller one to lightly imprint a circle within each cut round: you want the filling to sit in the inner circle, and the edges to puff up, and by lightly scoring a smaller circle inside the bigger one, you will allow this excellent rise to happen. Brush the entire puff with the melted butter. Once you have done this, place a little of the cheese mixture into each puff- try not to go over the edges of your scored circle. Top with a little piece of the smoked streaky bacon, and place 10-12 puffs on each baking tray- don’t crowd them too close together.

Bake for 12-15 minutes in a preheated oven until golden and puffed- I place mine on the top shelf as it is the immediate intense heat which will give a very good rise to your puffs. Serve immediately.

Parmesan Pecan Swirls

Again, quantities will work based on a pack of 375g puff pastry here. Instead of cutting little tarts using a scone cutter, you will be cutting the rectangle in half, then rolling each half up into a sausage type shape, then cutting the rolled sausage into pieces. Placed on their little whorled sides, sealed with melted butter and dusted with a few extra parmesan sprinkles, baked like this, they will retain their shape and bake themselves into the prettiest, golden swirls.

Line two baking trays with parchment. Ensure the oven is preheated to 180 degrees. Also ensure that the pastry is cold.


1x 375g ready rolled puff pastry

½ cup grated parmesan

½ cup grated cheddar (use the small side of the grater, please)

1 small clove garlic, microplaned

1 cup pecan nuts, toasted lightly and then finely chopped

Good grinding black pepper

Pinch white pepper

Good pinch Maldon salt

40g melted butter


Mix the cheeses, chopped pecan nuts, garlic and seasoning well. Ensure the garlic is rubbed into the cheese- as though you would butter for scones. Unroll the sheet of pastry onto a floured surface, and lightly brush the edges of the rectangle with the melted butter. Sprinkle 70% of the cheese mixture over the whole unrolled sheet of puff pastry- you need to reserve 30% of the mixture to dip the edges of the swirls in later.

Using a sharp non-serrated knife, slice the large rectangle in half, so that you have two smaller rectangles. Now roll each one up- you want long thin sausage shapes, so roll from the longer ends, not the shorter ends. Once you have tow long thin sausage shapes, pinch the long edge to seal the sausage down the side- otherwise the roll is liable to pop open. A gentle pinch is all you are after. Brush the sausages with more melted butter, and sprinkle each sausage with the remaining cheese and nut mixture. It’s a fairly messy process, but worth it. Now, again using a very sharp non serrated knife, cut each sausage into 10-12 pieces each, and place each swirl onto a baking tray, with the little whorled sides facing upwards. Bake in a hot preheated oven, on the top shelf, for 12-15 minutes, until golden and puffed. Serve immediately.

Chickpea & Haricot Dip, Smoky Sweetcorn & Chorizo

The Plain Kitchen food blog

This is pretty much a massive platter of smoky, spiced chilli wonderfulness. Serve at room temperature, with lots of things like tortilla chips, roasted new potatoes, vegetables and pitta bread to dip into the beautiful layers. It looks pretty impressive, but is the easiest thing in the world to make.

Serves 6-8 as a snack


For the chickpea and bean dip:

1 tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 tin haricot beans, rinsed and drained

1 clove garlic, microplaned

Zest and juice of a lemon

3 tbsp very good olive oil

3-4 tbsp water

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

Small handful coriander

Few basil leaves

1 tsp maldon salt

Good grinding black pepper

1 tsp paprika

For the sweetcorn:

1 red onion, finely sliced into rings

1 clove garlic, microplaned

1 sweetcorn cob, kernels removed

1 tbsp olive oil

A little salted butter

1 tsp smoked paprika

For the rest of the platter:

250ml full fat Greek yoghurt, or sour cream

15 cm piece of chorizo, sliced

Coriander and parsley to serve

Extra chilli, if desired, to serve


To make the chickpea and bean dip, simply whizz all of the ingredients together with a hand held blender or similar appliance. You may need extra water- or indeed oil at this stage- I watch as it blends, and if it is looking to thick, I splash a little extra oil and water into the mix. Once blended, taste for seasoning, and adjust as you see fit.

In a small non stick frying pan, fry the slices of chorizo in a little olive oil. Allow them to crisp up beautifully- it should take 4 minutes on a medium heat. Remove the slices of chorizo and set aside, but keep the wonderful paprika infused oil in the pan. Add the extra olive oil to the pan, and saute the red onion and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add the smoked paprika and sweetcorn, and saute for a further 5 minutes: you want the sweetcorn slightly browned ion places. Once this has happened, remove from the heat.

Now you are ready to layer everything on the platter: begin with a layer of the chickpea dip, followed by the sweetcorn and onions, then the Greek yoghurt (or sour cream, whatever you are using) and then dot the chorizo all over the layers. Top with extra herbs and chopped chilli.

Avocado Ritz

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Well, yet another blast from the past here, and one which I adore. I find food trends and fads such funny things; and of course, the avocado is having its moment in the sun, and so it should. It’s one of our favourite things in the world, and South Africans have been eating avo on toast forever- I’m so happy the rest of the world has finally made the avocado (especially mashed on toast) its favourite go-to snack of choice. Avocado Ritz needs to make a comeback- it is quite the most sublime little dish, and of course, so easy to prepare. Ensure you have perfectly ripe avocados- we wrap ours in newspaper and pop them in the fruit bowl, which hastens the ripening of the fruit. Use Fuerte, or Hass- I prefer the latter, as even though they’re smaller, they are not as watery as the Fuerte varities, I find. You must use raw prawns- all the flavour comes from cooking them in the garlic butter and oil, and of course, you need to add these glorious pan juices to your pink sauce. I can’t resist a little serving of finely shredded Gem or Romaine lettuce, dressed in the pink sauce too; a little nod to the prawn cocktail, of course.


Serves 2


1 Hass avocado, sliced in half and stone discarded

For the Prawns:

150g raw prawns

Good knob salted butter

1 tsp olive oil

1 fat clove garlic, microplaned

Pinch Maldon salt

Good grinding black pepper

For the pink sauce:

2 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tbsp crème fraiche

1 tbsp double cream

1 tbsp tomato sauce

Splash soya sauce

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Slight squeeze of lemon juice

Good pinch paprika

To serve:

1 small head Gem lettuce, shredded

Few dill leaves

Pinch paprika


Heat the garlic, butter and oil until frothing a little. Add the raw prawns, and fry in the garlic butter until pink all the way through- keep stirring them about, allowing them to become almost a little sticky and encrusted with the garlic. Once down, remove from the heat and set aside.

Slice off a little bit from the bottom of each avo half, to make it sit properly on the plate- it will tend to fall over otherwise!

Make the pink sauce by mixing everything together in a bowl. Add the prawns and all of the pan scrapings too. Mix well.

Spoon the prawns and some of the pink sauce into the avocado. Mix the remaining pink sauce with the shredded lettuce, and serve alongside the avo and prawns. Sprinkle with dill leaves and paprika, and serve immediately.

Breakfast Salad

The Plain Kitchen food blog

Oh, we do love a chopped salad in this house. However, I may shock you, as the leaves used in  this salad are not those grown on the farm,  but rather one of my other favourites: baby gem lettuce. As you know, we may swim in babyleaf salad in this house, but I do still love a crunchy Cos or Gem lettuce: there is an unmistakeable and welcome fresh crunch to these leaves that this particular salad needs. Today’s recipe, true to its name, relies on bacon and egg- and potato for a bit of body. The key ingredients, however, are the gherkins, jalapenos and olives. Along with all of the other lovely ingredients, the sharp flavours of that magic trio just work beautifully here. I haven’t written down a dressing recipe- anything you fancy would work here: a vinaigrette, a sweet mustard dressing, or a ranch type of dressing; they’d all go well, so please just make it your own.


Serves 4, generously


6 rashers smoked streaky bacon

4 eggs, boiled and chopped

2 baby gem lettuce, chopped, or one large head Romaine, chopped

2 medium potatoes, skins left on, cubed into small cubes

1 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic microplaned

Maldon salt and pepper

About 2 jalapenos, deseeded and finely chopped

About 5 gherkins, finely chopped

1 cup olives, chopped

2 spring onions, finely chopped

About 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered

Half a cucumber, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

A mixed handful of basil and parsley, chopped


Roast the cubed potatoes: pop them in an ovenproof dish with the oil and garlic, toss well and roast on a high heat (180-200 degrees Celsius) for about 15-20 minutes until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Remove and set aside.

Fry the bacon first: or pop it in a hot oven. The key is to crisp it up so perfectly that you’re able to crumble it onto the salad. Discard the fat though- it’s not needed in the salad, but of course can be reserved for later use.

When you are ready to assemble the salad, layer everything on a large platter- however you fancy doing it is up to you. I tend to end with the crumbled bacon, and the herbs and dressing. Serve immediately, with a dressing of your choice.


Chicken Liver Pâté with Chilli Butter

The Plain Kitchen Food blog

I can’t quite believe that this time next week, I will have one more recipe to post before the 365 day challenge is up. I can hear the sighs of relief all around: I know that, as helpful as some of the posts may be, seeing A Plain Kitchen email pop into your inbox every day at ten o’ clock probably does become a little repetitive. So, thank you. Thank you to all of you, so much, for subscribing, for commenting, for encouraging me, and for being so positive about the whole thing. It’s kept me going- and I am very grateful for your support.

Today’s recipe is an old farm favourite of ours: Chicken Liver Pâté. My mum made it so often, and I adored it- I remember the buttery lids best of all, and sneaking into the fridge to crack open a ramekin with my knife, when I was told not to touch them. Spread on hot toast, or a Cream Cracker, this was sophisticated heaven for me. Mum also made the most delicious Brawn- again, in little ramekins, which I loved tucking into. At the time, I had no idea what Brawn actually was. I subsequently found out- and it was slightly unnerving, but not enough to put me off eating it! Growing up on a pig farm meant that we were brought up to be hugely respectful of animals, and I suppose mum and dad subscribed to the whole nose-to-tail eating belief. It’s something which has stuck with me, hence today’s recipe: I think chicken livers a most underrated ingredient. They’re affordable, so easy to cook, and very good for you. As I write this post, I do indeed have a slice of toast spread rather generously with the stuff: and I may just go back for seconds.

Talking about nose-to-tail eating, I  may just post a recipe one day for what to do with Walkie Talkies. They are hugely popular and available in every frozen food aisle in South Africa. I think I may have a problem finding them here though, unless I approach a chicken farmer directly. If you’re a little unsure as to what Walkie Talkies are, try to figure it out- or resort to Google!

This recipe will take you all of 15 minutes or so to put together. Refrigeration is essential, and of course, use clarified butter, but if you don’t have the inclination to do so, plain old melted butter will do just fine.

Makes 4 medium sized ramekins (like the ones pictured- so 4 very generous portions)


2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped

2 fat cloves garlic, microplaned

1 tbsp olive oil

450g chicken livers, rinsed and any tough or green bits chopped off with kitchen scissors and discarded

6 sage leaves, finely chopped

50ml brandy

300g soft butter

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

Small sprinkling chopped fresh parsley

Maldon salt and black pepper

The plain kitchen foodblog


To clarify the butter, melt 150g of it very very slowly: now, I do this in a small frying pan, over an incredibly slow heat (some people use a warm oven). The white part of the butter- the milk proteins- will begin to separate from the clear yellow liquid. Once all of this has occurred, use a dessert spoon to scoop off the clarified butter into a separate ovenproof container or pan. I keep the milk protein part of the butter- it is delicious, and I don’t like waste. I use it as part of gravies, sauces, or marinades for chicken. Add the chilli flakes to the clarified butter, and keep this pan or container warm.

Get on with the livers. Sautee the shallots and garlic in the olive oil- this will take about 4 minutes. Add the sage leaves, stir well, then turn the heat up a little. Add the rinsed and drained livers, and sauté for a further 8 minutes or so: now, the cooking time really will depend on the size of your pan. The livers need to be browned but still slightly pink in the middle, so judge the timings accordingly. Just before you think they are done, add the brandy and allow to bubble away for about a minute. Once the livers are done, remove from the heat.

Place the liver mixture into a bowl, add I tsp Maldon salt and a good grinding of black pepper, and the other 150g of softened butter. Using a hand held blender, or similar appliance, blend until you have a very smooth paste: blend, blend and blend: you will see it become smooth and silky before your eyes.

Add the chopped parsley to the clarified butter. Pop the pâté into the ramekins, and level out with a knife (or finger). Remember not to fill the ramekins right to the top: allow space for the butter to be poured over the pâté. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes in the fridge, and then remove, and pour the clarified butter over the tops of the pâté. Refrigerate until needed. This keeps very well for up to a week, if not longer, but quite frankly it’ll be gone rather swiftly.